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Congratulations, you just survived another Thanksgiving holiday with all of the trimmings. It probably included not only a wonderful family get-together with turkey and pies, but also enough sports to cause a major overload even for a diehard football fan. It seems every year gets even more and more like that for us, and if you were among the many this past weekend you probably also included some form of traditional shopping frenzy too! Black Friday deals, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday…holy cow does it ever let up for even a second?
Can You Say “Shop ‘til you drop?”
Smartphones, online shopping, and “sneak peek” discounting have changed Black Friday deals from the door-busting shopping brawl of just a day or weekend into an even more bombastic event. They’ve reshaped how retailers appeal to consumers on these “special” days which serve as the annual kick-off for the holiday shopping season. But wait, there’s more to it than that!
The old time stance of waiting with bated breath until the Friday after Thanksgiving for the best bargains is long gone. No one is actually waiting for it anymore as retailers gear up really early (sometimes it feels like they’re always in Black Friday mode, doesn’t it?). Even online superstore Amazon started launching its Black Friday deals on November 1st, a full three weeks before Thanksgiving. And they aren’t the only ones.
In fact, what was a “big holiday weekend event” has morphed into a “holiday month” with the phrase “Black Friday deals all month long” being bandied about on radio, TV, and all kinds of advertising so that it’s all one big blur from November 1st through Christmas day!
Even the once thought of “sacred” day of Thanksgiving itself is no longer a holiday or day off for millions of retail workers as it once was when I first began my retail career. How many times have you stood in line after your big festive meal waiting to buy that new computer or big screen TV after dark in the cold just to save some dough? Me too (no, not that kind of #metoo).
So Now What? Have You Missed the Boat on Holiday Bargains?
Even though nearly 50% of all Americans considered or actually shopped during Thanksgiving weekend (according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey), Black Friday is not the last day to shop and save “bigly”. An estimated 75% of Americans say they plan to shop on and on through December 25th and even beyond for great deals.
Sales for 2018 are expected to be the best in total retail since 2007, before the great recession, and will increase overall by about 5% over last year according to the NRF. Have no fear that big retailers know that you’re out there lurking and watching, and they have a plan.
I Think You Love Your Online Shopping, Dude!
Retailers have completely transformed their whole business model over the past several years. I saw that trend coming as far back as 20 years ago, but I have to admit I didn’t predict that online shopping would be as big as it is. But these days online shopping has practically become a religion and it’s gaining more and more followers every day. This year will be another record setter for them, and do you know what that means? It means that the bargains will continue to roll on every single day and the temptation will be more and more powerful no matter how good a deal you think you may have just seen. Tomorrow, you can bet, it will be even better. I swear to it.
The Advertising Game is Different Now
Businesses start discounting so much earlier now that their overall advertising budgets have to be reduced to spread it all out to include the longer period of time for the “season”. The whole ad thing is very much diluted.
This dilution goes a long way in explaining why getting your vital information like your email address and having you sign up for loyalty cards, discounts, and “club” exclusives means so very much to retailers, both brick and mortar and online sites. Is there any time when you aren’t asked for that info when you even glance at a retailer and feign interest in something? There seems to be some kind of incentive offered to get that info too, like an extra discount of some kind to close the sale and make you a loyalist.
And oh by the way, brick and mortar stores and online sites are no longer mutually exclusive in case you haven’t noticed. More and more online retailers are opening “real” stores (yes even Amazon is doing it!) and vice versa. In fact, you can literally shop for almost every item there is on sites that you’d never expect to have a huge online presence and assortment. Check out a site like Staples and you will see what I mean. Buying a new sofa? Staples, gulp, has them too! I’m not kidding.
The Sophistication of the 2018 Retailer
Today, retailers also have a better grasp of buying and most have a “just in time” inventory system that makes massive sales like those on Black Friday less and less necessary. All the big stores and outlets are better prepared for the holiday inventories that they need and when they lower the prices on goods they actually want to sell a lot of them and not just draw you into the store as was the game in the old days, you know, the 2010’s. Oh and yes, most stores have realized that price-matching has to be a regular offering.
That opens the entire box of knowing about the return policy, competitive pricing, and all things discounted like rebates and couponing. There is a science to all of it and if you do the real homework you can always find another discount or policy that will make your purchase the deal you really want. It takes work.
That’s not to say that retailers don’t create special promotions to get their share of the Black Friday action and beyond; they do and will. They know shoppers are always looking for opportunities to get the most bang for their buck. Customers have a long shopping list and savings are always a priority.
Buying When You’re Desperate or Buying It Sooner?
I have written about the “wants vs. needs” thing over and over, and what I have said is that we do have to make choices if we are going to be budget wise and financially responsible. You can’t simply buy everything you want (unless your name is Bezos perhaps). But then again, sometimes you must buy even when it hurts.
We just bought a new microwave because ours has quit on us after seven years. We really needed a new one and we were in the desperate mode so the advantage goes to the retailer here.
When you buy out of total necessity, you don’t have much leverage. We are fortunate that our “need” just happened to coincide with Thanksgiving weekend and the deal was pretty good, but you can never count on that when a surprise like product failure occurs. Try to balance need and want so you always have the upper hand because it isn’t Thanksgiving in April.
Still, some part of the Black Friday mystique will always remain and shopping centers will continue to decorate for the start of the holidays, putting up decorations and bringing in Santa for pictures as early as they can. After all, haven’t we already seen “Christmas in July” type promotions? I admit, I do have a problem with that one.
No, You Haven’t Missed All the Deals
So the bottom line is that there are still great deals out there. Over the next few weeks, you and your budget will be put to the test. You will be overly tempted by the season and the desire to shop and give to your family, friends, and, of course, yourself. Try your best to be the most educated and even cunning shopper and use some of the tips I have cited here and in other posts. You must use your common sense and smarts. Don’t fall for the “best deal ever” lowest-price-of-the-season and never-get-a-deal-like-this-ever-again routine. Ever is a really long time and you can bet that someday, maybe really soon, you can do better!
Don’t forget to check out price adjustment policies so if that great deal you just bought gets even better in the next few days or weeks, you can pocket the difference. Or get Paribus to automatically track your online shopping and get refunds if the price drops.
Another Kind of Gift Giving
I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that today is Giving Tuesday. I urge you to gift a donation to your favorite charities, and many of them have matching deals or other special happenings. And just remember, if you’re not able to donate financially, there are other ways to help out.
So, what do you do as your shopping ritual every holiday season? Are you all in for Thanksgiving shopping or do you have a different plan? Do you shoot from the hip or plan ad nauseum to save? The big question here is: What kind of shopping skills do you really have?